We have a “secret” list of underlying criteria for this section called “collector’s choice.” When we decide to interview someone, it’s definitely not about the person with the biggest collection. It’s also not about the most valuable one either. There has to be something more. The idea is to interview important personalities from the world of sneakers – people with character, style and a superior connectedness in our little cosmos. Francky Bendahan is the prime example of what we are looking for which is why we visited him in his hometown of Paris for this interview. Enjoy!
Francky, it’s a pleasure to have you as our interview guest. How are you and what are you doing these days?
Hi Holger! The pleasure is mine. I appreciate you having me, and also having the opportunity to say a bit more about myself. I’m doing great lately. Summer has been full throttle with projects and barely any breaks. As some of you may know, I’m in charge for Sneakerness Paris, so there’s a lot to do before September. Also I’m in charge of this new business called La Tete Dans Les Nuages, the biggest arcades room in Europe. I am planning to utilize this space as a hub to bring influencers together through events, breakfasts and private rentals.
Before we go into the present, please let us know how you got into the footwear game? What were your most important influences in your formative years?
I got in the footwear game when I was younger, around 15-16 years old. It all started with my dad often traveling to the US, and bringing me back jerseys of basketball teams. Then I really started to get into it deeper. Rather than asking for video games like all the other kids my age, I chose my gifts wisely and just asked him for sneakers. The Barcelona Olympic Games were, I think, a big pivot in what influenced me about sneakers. The Dream Team footwear game was crazy and got me jumping in this passion.
What was the first sneaker that got you hyped?
The Jordan 7 Raptors probably.
When did the sneaker game become your profession? How did it develop into a business?
Sneakers are not really a profession for me. I see it more as a side job that I developed alongside my passion. I started building several projects related to it – pop up, events, consulting – it kind of has organically happened, but I would not confirm it is my business. I guess when you love something it becomes more of a hobby.
A hobby you cultivate in an intense way. You’ve established Sneakerness Paris as one of the biggest European events. Now there are more and more events popping up all over the place, it seems like a weekly thing. Is it becoming oversaturated? And what separates the good ones from the average ones?
Good remark my friend! I will not say saturated, but I am a bit afraid that the consumers for these types of cool events are going to get bored if they happened too often. We, the Sneakerness team, really have a different approach to sneakers events. We want to give our visitors the feeling that they are part of a movement, a community. We also want them to be able to network directly with brand representatives, because after all they invest most of their money in these brands. Of course, we always keep in mind that private sellers, more commonly called resellers now were and are still the essence of this type of convention. The variety of products and the possibility to find good deals is important. The privilege to meet European brands and people from all over makes it pretty dynamic.
I think that the real difference is that we do this in a professional way, but also with our heart and passion for the sneakers game. Whereas, some others just do it as a business propaganda, which makes it soulless.
However, you’re a business man without a doubt and very entrepreneurial. Are you completely self-taught or do you have a “formal” education as well?
First, thank you for the compliment. I actually have a formal education. I passed my MBA in Marketing and Publicity a couple of years ago (I feel old to say that!) and was then working for Marcel Agency, which is part of Publicis Groupe. I decided a couple of years later to change my path and learned on the ground the real estate market in the Middle East (Tel Aviv to be more precise).
I think that nowadays, studies are important, but you can definitely make it to the top by just being motivated. My motto is to always keep reaching in whatever you do whether profession or hobby. I am always interested in new challenges. I have no fear to sometimes invest a lot of time, energy and money to make it work!
You’re also part of the KITH crew. How did that connection happen, how long have you known them and how did that happen?
I met RF when he was still working for David Z. around 7-8 years ago. I was already aware of his project and always trying to get my hands on his old collabs when they were strictly US exclusive.
During a trip in NY, I was sitting in the Broadway store trying on one of the pairs he designed (GL3 Coves I guess) and was talking on the phone in Hebrew. Ronnie approached me and asked me some questions in the same language (he also speaks Hebrew because he has Israeli background). We had a nice chat that day until he handed me his business card and this is how we kept in touch.
He visited Paris a few times after and we made many fun memories. We have been friends ever since. When he created KITH, he gave me the chance to be an informal member of the team; this allowed me to have the European connection.
KITH is based on the crew principle, “Kith and Kin” or friends and family. Do you also have a friends and family “crew” type of approach in your business?
I really think that to mix business and friendship is a tough task. I always try to keep things separated for the simple reason that I am not an easy person to work with. Of course, my friends’ opinion are very important when I lead projects such as Sneakerness.
Besides the KITH guys, who is doing it right in this industry at the moment?
I think Shinzo, here in Paris, has a good business approach. The competition is hard nowadays and retail is not easy to master. I have mad respect for my good friends from SNS also – Peter, Eric, Johan if you read this. On another type of footwear but still part of the industry, Filling Pieces is killing it! I have seen the brand from day one and to see them here now makes me proud to be part of their inner circle.
You just mentioned Paris. How would you describe your relationship to your city?
I’m 100% Parisian and proud to be. I have this real dedication to the codes of Paris and France. I feel our nation is a synonym of patriotism and that reveals a lot about the way we are living in this city. Being different now with the internet is not always easy, but I feel Parisians will always find a twist to make it look good. I think it is what you people call “the French touch.”
What are your top 5 sneakers of all time?
JORDAN 1 is definitely the top of my list, no matter the colorway. AIR MAX 87 OG colorways are certainly also my all time classic. New Balance 1500 made in UK hold an important place in my collection (CTx Solebox, Blackbeard, Nazar Eye) and Blazer Supreme Flyknit in general.
To my inner circle, they know who they are. Tebar, my main soldier, proud we have accomplished all those things together! Shout out to the people who hate me. You guys are a great motivation.
It’s better to burn out than to fade away. Merci!
This article is a shortened version. Find the full length original in our print issue, which you can get in our store. You can also subscribe for a full year of Sneakers Mag.